Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview with Amy Spalding, author of INK IS THICKER THAN WATER

I'm super excited to introduce my guest today, Amy Spalding, whose second YA contemporary book, INK IS THICKER THAN WATER, came out December 3rd.

From Good Reads: For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

The Los Angeles release party for INK is in one month at Skylight Books! If you live in Southern California, come join the fun on January 18th at 5pm!

In the meantime, kick back and learn some more about Amy and INK, of which author Trish Doller (WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE) says, "Spalding depicts a blended family with compassion, humor, love, and pitch-perfect authenticity."

Photo by Jesse Weinberg
Q: You recently traveled to your hometown of St. Louis, which also happens to be the setting of INK IS THICKER THAN WATER. Did you make it a point of visiting places the book references or alludes to, and did it feel any different being home now that your book located there is out in the world? How was the launch party? Did you meet up with anyone from your past? (Specifically who knew you as a teen?)

A: I absolutely went to places mentioned in the book, mainly lots of coffee from Mokabe's, but it wasn't so much because I mentioned them in INK but because these are the places I love going anyway. I liked being able to write about the places I love in St. Louis, particularly spots like Fitz's and Vintage Vinyl, where I logged A LOT of hours growing up.

Most of my friends in St. Louis have known me since I was in high school (or earlier, even) so there's a lot of history there. I just had to be careful writing about teenage hangouts and such that I checked my favorite places were all still open (the ones that weren't...HEARTBREAKING!).

Q: You have a beautiful and personal variety of tattoos that reference musical theatre as well as other passions of yours. Are there any tattoos you've seen on other people that stand out for you, in either good or bad ways?

A: Thank you! I love other people's tattoos, so, yes, absolutely, all the time. I usually get really envious when people are more inked than I am, because due to my dayjob, I know there are certain limits I need to hold myself to. So whenever I see amazing hand tattoos, for example, I get pretty dreamy.

Q: I think each of your contemporary YA books, THE REECE MALCOLM LIST and INK IS THICKER THAN WATER, would translate exceptionally well to an ABC Family series. What are your favorite teen-centric or family-centric shows? What makes them great for you? 
A: That's totally my dream! I love ABC Family, and I love teen-centric and family-centric shows. I just watched all of THE FOSTERS that's available on Netflix, and it's completely up my alley. PARENTHOOD is probably my favorite (and the best) of family shows on TV. I also love love love THE CARRIE DIARIES and wish it got more credit for being such a good teen show, considering it has so little to do with SEX & THE CITY.

I was a big fan of The WB back in the day, and loved EVERWOOD, GILMORE GIRLS, and BUFFY. And probably my favorite family show ever is SIX FEET UNDER.

Q: What other TV shows, if any, inspire or teach you about character, setting, dialogue, or tone?
A: Definitely all the above, but I think any serialized TV show can be great for writers to watch (or at least I tell myself that when I'm mainlining shows on Netflix and not actually writing). Novel-writing and TV seasons have a lot in common, and there are lessons to take everywhere. There's hardly a better place to watch expectations pay off than SCANDAL. I'm not sure anyone has been so economical with writing as the BREAKING BAD staff, in that not a damn thing went to waste. PARKS & REC is a good reminder that you can still find comedy and drama in people mainly being good to each other. THE GOOD WIFE does great things like throw characters into interpersonal drama and then quickly remind you, the viewer, that these people still have to attend to other responsibilities like work, which is great for a YA writer because my characters still have school and extracurriculars and chores and such.

Basically I just love TV.

Q: Can you give us a little scoop about your next book, KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER GUYS)?

KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER GUYS) is a romantic comedy set in L.A.'s eastside. It's about bands, friends, and making out. And it's out in 2015, which is...the future!!

Thanks for stopping by, Amy!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Post: Lisa Gail Green Shares Tips on Writing Short Stories

Hoping to flex your writing skills this month for NaNoWriMo, but intimidated by the prospect of churning out an entire novel? Why not challenge yourself with a short story instead?

Author Lisa Gail Green, whose short stories have been published in all three Journeys of Wonder anthologies, and whose paranormal fantasy novel, THE BINDING STONE, debuted this year, is here to tell you how.

Take it away, Lisa, and thanks for stopping by my blog!


Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Sarah! *Puts feet up on sofa* You’re wondering what it’s like writing short fiction versus a novel length manuscript? The short answer is – not too much.
  • You still have to use a full (albeit probably simple) story arc.
  • You still have to revise like crazy until it’s as perfect as you can get it.
  • You’re still responsible for developing your character as well. No shortcuts just because it’s only a thousand words long. 

What’s different in a short story?
  •         You can’t have more than a few characters. Too many take too much space and you won’t be able to do them justice. It’s best to stick to your main character and one or two extra characters that he/she interacts with. Then you have room to work with.
  •         You have to get to the point. You can’t spend pages going on about the d├ęcor. You really have to pick and choose when it comes to description and use what is important to your character and the story. Don’t forget to filter through your character’s POV.
  •          No place for subplots. Can you do it? Well… yes. BUT it’s really, really tricky and I don’t recommend it when you’re starting out. Practice first like with anything else. And any subplot you use should definitely be intertwined with your main storyline.

Now here’s the trick though. All of these elements can be used to tighten your novel. That’s right; short stories are good for writers. They’re another way to stretch your writing muscles and a great exercise. Plus, if you get one or two publication credits by getting a short story or two accepted somewhere then that can go in your bio and can bolster your self-esteem. It’s a win-win situation.

Take a look at the similarities with all that in mind: 
  • You get to practice making your characters count. In a novel you have to eliminate and combine non-essentials just like in a short story. And no one should be one-dimensional. 
  • You should ALWAYS filter through character and eliminate superfluous description, etc. 
  • Your subplots should reflect the theme at the very least and if you can somehow bring them together with the main plot – even better.
The structure of both short stories and novels are the same, though short stories can be difficult in that they limit your space. But that’s the best reason I can think of to encourage everyone to write them.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


My contemporary YA mystery, HIGH AND DRY, comes out April 15th, 2014 from Amulet Books! I love the gritty cover:

What's HIGH AND DRY about?

Framed for a stranger's near-fatal overdose at a party, blackmailed into finding a mysterious flash drive everyone in school seems anxious to suppress, and pressured by his shady best friend to throw an upcoming game, high school soccer player Charlie Dixon spends a frantic week trying to clear his name, win back the girl of his dreams, and escape a past that may be responsible for all his current problems.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Get Real" Panel & Signing at the West Hollywood Book Fair

Hi all,

This Sunday, 9/29, I'll be at the West Hollywood Book Fair on a panel called "Get Real!" at 3-4pm, with a signing afterward. We'll be chatting about all things young adult contemporary.

With me will be...

 Moderator/author Amy Spalding (THE REECE MALCOLM LIST)

Ann Stampler (WHERE IT BEGAN)
 Carol Tanzman (CIRCLE OF SILENCE)
 Stephanie Kuehn (CHARM & STRANGE)
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BRUISED playlist, and Updates on Local Author Night

The wonderfully kind Jim of YA Yeah Yeah and The Bookbag interviewed me last week. If you're into playlists, you can find the one I created for BRUISED there.

Secondly, Local Author Night happen this Friday from 4 to 7pm at the Valencia Barnes & Noble.

Featuring popular local authors in fiction, non-fiction, musical novel, teen fiction, inspirational and children’s literary categories, in attendance will be: Jessica Brody, Jane Gates, Dionna Hancock-Johnson, Derek Kent, Joanna Mastopietro, Sarah Maizes, Gretchen McNeil, Dennis Nehamen, Laurisa Reyes, Leighton J. Reynolds, Sarah Skilton, Andrew Smith & Thomas Thorpe!  

Best of all, a percentage of book sales at Barnes & Noble for this event will benefit Canyon High, where author Andrew Smith teaches.

Visit to support us online from 8/23/13 to 8/28/13 by entering Bookfair ID 11158144 at checkout.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Upcoming Summer Events

I'll be signing at two fun YA events this summer with lots of local authors. Hope to see you there!

Summer of YA - Saturday, July 27th, 2 to 4pm 
Barnes & Noble, at the Glendale Americana, Glendale, CA 
From Paranormal Romance to Action Adventure join us for a "speed dating" styled event where you can sit down and meet 11 up and coming YA authors. We will be hosting Jessica Brody (Unremembered), Stacey Jay (Of Beast and Beauty), Kathy McCullough (Who Needs Magic?), Gretchen McNeil (Ten), Lissa Price (Starters), Elizabeth Ross (Belle Epoque), Sarah Skilton (Bruised), Andrew Smith (Winger), Ann Stampler (Where It Began), Carol Tanzman (Circle of Silence) and Allen Zadoff (Boy Nobody). Don't miss this chance to chat with these talented individuals and have them sign your books! All of the authors' books will be available for purchase.


Local Author Night in Valencia, CA - Friday, August 23, 4 to 7 PM 
Please join us in welcoming authors Jessica Brody, Jane Gates, Dionna Hancock-Johnson, Derek Kent, Joanna Mastopietro, Sarah Maizes, Gretchen McNeil, Dennis Nehamen, Laurisa Reyes, Leighton Reynolds, Sarah Skilton, Andrew Smith and Thomas Thorpe!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Super Swag Sunday


The 2nd Annual


When:  June 24th thru July 1st


Why:  For a chance to win lots of cool promotional items signed by 42 of today's best middle grade and young adult authors!

Every day for seven days, Laurisa's blog will spotlight some of the most amazing new books for kids and teens! Monday thru Saturday visitors will be able to enter for chances to win one of 6 swag packs containing everything from signed bookmarks and postcards, to pins, pencils, totebags, stickers, key chains, lip balm, charms and more!

On the last day, SUPER SWAG SUNDAY, one last MEGA SWAG PACK will be given to one very lucky winner! This pack so far includes everything listed above PLUS:

1- hardbound copy of THE UNWANTEDS signed by author Lisa McMann
1- TEST TASTE charm bracelet
1 - LOVE AND LEFTOVERS charm necklace
1 - SEND ME A SIGN guitar pick
1 - paperback copy of EVERTASTER: THE BUTTERSMITH'S GOLD signed by author Adam Sidwell
1- hardbound copy of THE SCORCH TRIALS signed by author James Dashner
1- hardbound copy of THE ALWAYS WARS signed by author Margaret Peterson Haddix
1 - OyMG! T-shirt
1 - Original Artwork Print from FISHTALE signed by author Catherine Masciola
1- LOSING IT water bottle signed by author Erin Fry
1 - hardbound copy of LOSING IT signed by the author

And more prizes are still being added to the pile!

So be sure to stop by every day from June 24th thru July 1st for plenty of chances to win. Stop by now and follow the blog to receive notifications of when the event starts posting.

See you then!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Have you read BRUISED?

Wanna test your knowledge of the book's content?

Some kind soul wrote BRUISED trivia questions over at Goodreads. See how you stack up!

(Embarrassing confession: I wasn't 100% positive about the answer to one of the questions, though my guess turned out to be correct.

I swear I wrote this book, though.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Brenda Novak Auction: Win a Critique, New Reviews, Giveaways, Interviews, and More

Brenda Novak Auction

Two days left to bid on a critique of 20 pages of a Young Adult novel, offered by me (BRUISED, HIGH AND DRY) and Miranda Kenneally (CATCHING JORDAN, STEALING PARKER, THINGS I CAN'T FORGET, RACING SAVANNAH). All funds benefit diabetes research.

New Reviews of BRUISED

"Poignant and emotionally raw at times and humorous at others, this debut novel adeptly portrays a shattered life...and the road back to normalcy. Fans of realistic fiction will appreciate the multilayered story, Tae Kwon Do action and philosophy, and resilient protagonist." ~ School Library Journal

"Debut author Skilton understands and respects martial arts, and she does a beautiful job presenting the philosophy that drives serious martial artists... Here is a writer to watch who handles complex issues with sensitivity in the vein of Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen." ~ Booklist Online 

"Have you ever seen one of those movies where the unarmed hero valiantly faces off with the trigger-happy shooter, gets help from the police just in the nick of time, and emerges from the entire ordeal a bit shaken but otherwise unharmed? Welcome to real life." ~ Sharon (L.A. County Library Teen Book Review Board)


Win one of two signed hardcopies of BRUISED at Katie McGarry's (PUSHING THE LIMITS, CROSSING THE LINE, DARE YOU TO) blog!

Win a huge prize pack of Lucky 13s debut novels by donating to Red Cross to help Oklahoma

Interviews & Guest Posts

Healing Hamlet - In which we discuss screenwriting and YA novels, motherhood, and mental health

"Girls in Sports" Week at A Backwards Story - Martial arts, baby!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Relief for Oklahoma

The Lucky 13s have joined forces with the Friday the Thirteeners and the Enchanted Inkpot to help those affected by the Oklahoma tornado. To that end, we are offering up a large giveaway. "Kidlit Authors for Oklahoma" is starting today and will run for 2 weeks.  

By donating to Red Cross, you can enter for your chance to win 1 of 5 book prize bundles or a critique from our authors.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Four Places to Win a Free Copy of BRUISED

1. The Nocturnal Library (six more days to win!)

2. Books, Bones & Buffy (two more days to win!)

3. A Thousand Wrongs (one more day to win!)

4. And coming tomorrow... a chance from YA Fresh

Thanks to Maja, Tammy, Laurisa, and Tina for hosting these giveaways.

And if you strike out this time, check back here in April for at least two more chances!

Happy reading.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy Book Birthday, Nonuplet Style!

Here's what people are saying about BRUISED, my contemporary YA novel, out today:

"Offering psychological drama and an introduction to martial-arts code of behavior, the book has a meaningful message about power, control, and the internal bruises carried by victims." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Her story is compelling, and readers will stick with her as new insights bring about a believable shift in her behavior…This distinctive debut will be appreciated by fans of contemporary fiction." —Kirkus Reviews 

"This layered first novel explores the aftereffects of the trauma, convincingly depicting why Imogen blames herself for a situation over which she had no control. Skilton also sensitively depicts the bond and tentative romance that develops between Imogen and Ricky. The main story line about Imogen’s struggle to come to terms with what she did (and did not do) is nuanced and honest." —Horn Book

"This is a useful exploration of the difference between fantasy-style omnipotence and the complexity of real-life human strength." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Here are 8 more Young Adult and Middle Grade books in early March I'm celebrating...
  1. Miranda Kenneally's THINGS I CAN'T FORGET
  2. Mindee Arnett's THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR
  4. Tamera Wissinger's GONE FISHING
  5. Steven dos Santos' THE CULLING 
  7. Bridget Zinn's POISON
  8. Jessica Brody's UNREMEMBERED
Happiest of Book Birthdays to all!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Teen Author Reading Night Tomorrow at Downtown Los Angeles Public Library

On Thursday, February 28th (tomorrow!), I'll be participating in the LAPL's Teen Author Reading Night alongside Amy Spalding (THE REECE MALCOLM LIST), Jessica Brody (UNREMEMBERED), and Michelle Gagnon (DONT TURN AROUND), and hosted by Cecil Castellucci.

We'll be reading excerpts from our new novels, chatting about books in general, and answering questions. Tomorrow also marks the one-year anniversary of the downtown library's Teen Author Reading Nights program. Doors open at 6:30; event starts at 7pm.

Thanks to Mary McCoy for helping to organize it!

Click here for more information. Hope you can make it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Creating Great Dialogue in YA Books

What were you up to in fall of 2011? I apparently did an online video interview with Author Learning Center. It was uploaded this past week, so care to take a trip down memory lane with me?

In the below video, I discuss writing dialogue in YA books.

Fun facts: In late 2011, I was pregnant and had very short hair. I know! Crazy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"What the...?!" Wednesday #3: What Goes Into Planning a Launch Party?

I should probably explain what a launch party is first.

A launch party is a way for an author to celebrate the release of his or her book and get the word out to the community that a local writer has made good [aka lives among them and can't be trusted not to eavesdrop]. The party takes place at a book store so the author can sign copies for friends, family, and (gasp) strangers.

Some authors like to include a reading or Q&A session before the signing. Some authors provide raffles, trivia games, or other entertainment. Some authors offer champagne, wine, and snacks. Some authors -- wait. I think nightly readings of The Mommy Book by Todd Parr have bled over into my syntax. Anyway, you get the idea.


Planning a launch party requires advance prep work. I live in the suburbs, and I really wanted to celebrate the launch of BRUISED at my local bookstore. The Valencia Barnes & Noble is a warm, inviting place I go to almost every week. I also attend monthly SCBWI shmoozes there, so I knew I'd feel comfortable throwing the party there, and that memories of the event would make me smile in the future while browsing the stacks or hitting up Saturday story time with my son.

Even though my book doesn't come out until March 5, I contacted the community relations manager, Joelle, last November to introduce myself and my book, and ask if the store might host me.

Because the holidays are crazy in retail, we agreed to discuss the details after the new year. In the meantime, Joelle graciously booked me for Saturday, March 16th, so I could begin spreading the word.

Once January rolled around, Joelle and I got together in person to go over some basics. I brought her a copy of BRUISED for her and her staff to read (they're apparently big YA fans, yay!), a review I'd recently gotten from Publishers Weekly, and some postcards.

Barnes & Noble would be putting up posters in the window to advertise, and I offered to print fresh bookmarks for customers to take home in the month leading up to the launch.

There were also a few smaller items that needed discussing, like decorations, table cloths, gift bags, chair locations, book displays, etc. Joelle gave me a list of people worth contacting, which was an enormous help. She knows all the local librarians and book club organizers, and she even got me in touch with the host of a radio show about the arts in Santa Clarita.

I've been gathering fun items to raffle off, including signed swag and even a few ARCs from fellow 2013 debut authors Amy Spalding, Kristen Kittscher, Cat Winters, Elisabeth Dahl, Rachele Alpine, Nicole McInnes, Polly Holyoke, and more. I'm really looking forward to the celebration!

If you live in or near Los Angeles, consider this your invite. My launch party takes place on Saturday, March 16th from 1 to 3 pm at the Valencia, CA Barnes & Noble.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cruisin' for a Bruisin' (Sorry. Really.) BRUISED Links

Here's my latest book news:

1. BRUISED received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

2. The book comes out in 1 month! You can pre-order it all sorts of ways.

3. I have one last ARC (advance readers copy) and I'm giving it away on GoodReads.

4. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book at Alice Marvel's site.

5. "Readers in Wonderland" blog reviewed BRUISED as part of their Debut Author Challenge series.

6. If you take a picture of BRUISED out in the wild (aka at a library or a bookstore) and send it to me, I'll mail you a limited edition signed bookmark. (Limited edition because I ran out of money.) (But they look really cool.)

To get a bookmark, just tweet me the photo, post it on my Facebook Page, or email it to me: bruisedbook [at] gmail [dot] com

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"What The...?!" Wednesday #2: What is ALA, and What is the ALA Conference?

Funny you should ask, as I happen to have spent this weekend at the ALA Conference in Seattle.

There will be pictures and everything. Hold on to your hats!

(Okay but seriously feel free to jump in with your own questions anytime. This one's kind of a gimmee.) ------>

Anyway, ALA stands for the American Library Association, and the ALA Conference is a week-long event in which librarians, publishers, authors, book reviewers, book bloggers, school teachers, publicists, marketing directors, avid readers, and even library suppliers (those enormous "return" bins outside libraries have to come from somewhere) meet up at a convention to discuss the state of the industry from several angles.

Me and Mom outside our hotel in Seattle
The conference I attended was the Midwinter Meeting and Exhibition. The ALA Annual will occur June 27 - July 2 in Chicago.

Some publishers use their booth to give away advance copies of their upcoming books, plus posters, calendars, and other swag. Others host book signings and buzz panels to showcase established authors or introduce debut authors to the world.

Image Blatantly Stolen from AbramsKids Instagram

My Very First Book Signing! Photo Credit: Mom

Bonus WTW Question: Why on earth would publishers want to give away free copies of their yet-to-be released books to hundreds, nay, thousands of librarians?

Bonus WTW Answer: In the hopes that those librarians will fall in love and purchase final copies for their libraries.

Bonus, Bonus Answer: Forging personal connections with librarians isn't just good business, it's fun.

My publisher, Abrams/Amulet, very generously arranged for me (BRUISED), Cat Winters (IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS), Patrick Jennings (BAT AND RAT), Tom Angleberger (FAKE MUSTACHE, Art2 D2), Nikki McClure (HOW TO BE A CAT), and Margi Preus (SHADOW ON THE MOUTAIN) to participate in the convention.

I've never done a book signing or spoken publicly to strangers about my book, so needless to say, I was excited but nervous. Luckily, I had a secret weapon: my mom, a former librarian, traveled with me. Yay, Mom, you're the best!

We had a lovely time, and I'm grateful to the Abrams team -- Maggie Lehrman, Jason Wells, Cecily Kaiser, and Laura Milhalick -- for including me in the festivities.

Jason, Cecily, and Maggie Introduce the Spring '13 Catalog
I spoke at a book buzz panel, a librarian luncheon, and a local bookseller dinner. I also signed copies of BRUISED at the awesome Abrams booth, and flew home with a bag full of books from throughout the exhibit hall.

Want more scoop from ALA Midwinter? Check out Cat Winters' blog for her take on the weekend.

Cat Winters (IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS) and me outside the Abrams Buzz Panel

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"What The...?!" Wednesday #1: Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

Oh, does it take long? I hadn't noticed.

Har. Hee! Whee.

Back in early 2011, when I jumped up and down and told my friends and family I'd sold my book, they thought that meant it was going to be in bookstores within the month. "When can I get it?" they asked, sweetly, naively. "Next week?"

"Spring 2013," I said, and felt a perverse joy in watching their eyes glaze over.

"Whaaaaa? Why does it take so long?"

My experience happens to be with traditional publishing, so I can only speak to that, but I hope this proves informative to other writers and their anxious loved ones.

The short, simplified answer is: quality control. And thank goodness for it.

A manuscript isn't acquired by an editor at a publishing house because it's perfect; it's acquired because the editor likes the raw material and believes she can help shape and mold it into something even better.

Such was the case with my book. Before I signed a publishing contract, I spoke with my agent, Sara Megibow, and my potential editor, Maggie Lehrman, on a conference call so I could get a sense of how Amulet Books worked and what Maggie envisioned for the story. I LOVED her ideas and immediately wished I’d already implemented them.

The first stage of edits consists of general edit notes: the broad ideas about plot, theme, or possibly reworking character arcs, both big and small, throughout the book. That took a few months.

Next up were line edits, which dig in to more detailed, sentence-level edits for meaning and consistency.

After that were copy edits and proofing, which correct word usage, grammar (unless the character voice deliberately eschews it), typos, and redundancies.

Next up: First pass pages! This is exciting because it's the first time you get to see the book's layout: how the finished product will appear, complete with fonts. *YES, I got way too excited about my font.

First pass pages are followed guessed it...second pass pages. And keep in mind I wasn't Maggie's only book, of course. While all this was going on, she was editing several other novels on her list, not to mention reading tons of brand-new submissions.
Other talented people were hard at work designing the book's cover and interior art (read my review with Abram's Associate Art Director, Maria Middleton), writing catalog and jacket copy, printing up the ARCs (advance reader copies) for reviewer and/or bloggers, creating marketing plans, and more.

Were there days I wished I could jump ahead to the release date? Sure! But now that it's fast approaching, I find myself grateful that nothing was rushed into publication before it was ready. (And from what I've heard, most writers still go through their published books thinking of things they'd change.)

If I didn't have all that help from the talented people at Amulet, my book wouldn't be half as good as it it's turned out to be. And on March 5, I hope you'll see for yourself how their amazing work paid off!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Introducing "What The...! Wednesdays"

Considering that...

A) It's not Wednesday but Thursday that I'm typing this
B) I have no topics pre-selected for tonight anyway

...I'll understand if the title of this post is confusing. Last year I updated my blog (almost) every Thursday, but for 2013, I'm moving to Wednesdays, for a new series I like to call "What The...! Wednesdays." On "WTW"s, I'll be answering questions about books, publishing, agents, editing, and anything else I feel equipped to explain / pontificate on now that my book is honest-to-God coming out, with a second contracted for 2014, and a third being rough drafted.

Until recently, I didn't feel comfortable writing advice posts because I didn't believe I had the authority or experience to talk about publishing. Not saying I'm suddenly an expert, but I have learned A LOT over the past couple of years and I think it'd be fun to answer questions for those who are starting out or want to know more about the process of becoming a traditionally published author.

On that note, feel free to send me questions via Twitter or email, and I'll post my answers on the blog every(ish) Wednesday. If I don't know the answer, I'll find someone in publishing who does, and interview them on the topic.

In other news, I joined Sleuths, Spies & Alibis, a fabulous resource for teachers, librarians, writers, and mystery/thriller fans of all ages.

I also continue to be active at the Lucky 13s blog, where we're celebrating our debut year (AT LAAAAAAAAST) in style. Check out our frequently updated Appearances page to find out when a Lucky 13s author will be signing books or speaking on a panel near you!

See you next Wednesday, Mousketeers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Art Designer Maria Middleton Talks About The Cover for BRUISED & More!

I'm extremely excited to post the following behind-the-scenes interview with Maria T. Middleton, the talented Associate Art Director at Abrams Books.

Welcome, Maria!
Before I ever knew she'd be designing the cover for my book, I'd admired her breathtaking work on such stand-out titles as SHINE and BLISS by Lauren Myracle, SPLINTERED by AG Howard, and ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET by Joanne Rocklin. Check them out:

Here's Maria in her own words about her process, and how she came up with the cover for my martial arts-themed book, BRUISED (below, available March 5th!)

How did you get started in art design? Was it something you always hoped to pursue?
I was always one of those "artsy" kids, but didn't really get into graphic design until high school. I was the editor of my high school yearbook, so in addition to writing articles, I was also responsible for the theme and design of the book: creating spreads, placing photos, text, captions, sidebars, etc. (Which is pretty much what I do now!) Aside from appealing to my slightly OCD personality, I loved the creative process of bringing stories to life. Having this foundation, I went to art school and knew design was what I wanted to pursue.  

Did you have a favorite book cover growing up?
Yes! The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. I thought the illustrated Charlotte Doyle—with her blue eyes and 80s wind-blown brown hair—was SO pretty. (I think I actually took the paperback with me to the hair dressed and said, I want my hair to look like that.) It's still one of my favorite novels.

Which covers stand out for you today as being particularly remarkable, evocative, or beautiful?
Oh, there are so many! One of my favorites is the Beautiful Creatures series designed by David Caplan. The third book in the series, Beautiful Chaos, literally called to me from the shelf in the bookstore. The typography is stunning and the special effects are perfect—especially the soft-touch matte lamination, which makes it impossible to put down. Bunheads, designed by Tracy Shaw, is another great cover, as is Chasing Lincoln's Killer designed by Phil Falco and Lizzy Bromley's insanely, incredible double-sided jacket for The Blessed.  

How many sketches or drafts do you typically go through before a cover is finalized? Have you ever gotten it right with the first try?
It really depends on the project. For Lauren Myracle's Shine, I probably did something like 15 exploratory comps before landing on the right idea. With other projects, like Shelley Coriell's YA novel, Welcome Caller This is Chloe, my first idea ended up becoming the final.  

How many books do you design for Abrams/Amulet a year, and how do you go about designing them? Do you jot down ideas as you're reading, or read first and brainstorm later? How did you go about it for BRUISED?
In the course of a year, I'll design/art direct about 25–30 titles. For novels, I like to read the manuscript first, 1) because I'm a big kid at heart and YA/middle grade fiction is still my favorite, and 2) I think the best ideas for covers come straight from the text. I'll sketch ideas/thoughts while I'm reading and then discuss them with the editor to make sure we're on the same page. I think editorial input is really helpful because most editors have a vision for a project and I like to use that vision as a spring-board for the design. Bruised happened exactly this way.  

Many YA books in the past few years have used headless models, or partial images of teenage girls. Your cover for BRUISED is symbolic rather than literal, which I absolutely love. How did you come up with the broken trophy concept for BRUISED?
First off: I love this story! I took Tae Kwon Do as a kid, so Imogen's character appealed to me immediately. After reading an early manuscript, I knew there were three things I wanted to convey with the cover: the female narration, the sense of loss/brokenness, and the martial arts angle. My first comps were actually more literal and less symbolic, but I changed course after talking to the book's fabulous editor, Maggie Lehrman, who wanted something very iconic. So I started browsing stock photos for visual metaphors for martial arts, which is where I came across the trophy.

On its own, the trophy checked two of my three requirements—I just needed to add the element of brokenness. Separating the limbs from the body seemed like the most obvious way to show brokenness, so I didn't explore that right away. At first I tried making the trophy look rusted, then corroded, then burned, but those effects started to muddy the graphic approach. In the end, the clean breaks worked best. And splaying the limbs at weird angles rounded out the idea.

How important are colors when setting a tone, mood, and style? What mood were you hoping to evoke for BRUISED by using a gradient blue background, red title font, and a gold trophy? Are there any colors you generally stay away from?
Color is a powerful tool, ranking right up there with concept, composition, and typography. There really aren't any colors that I specifically avoid, but I do gravitate toward complimentary and primary color schemes, which I used for Bruised. Because the trophy is an orangey-gold, I knew it would pop on a darker background. Solid black was striking, but seemed a little too heavy, so I replaced it with blue (orange's compliment) and the gradient adds depth and brings the focus right to the trophy. It also gives a subtle sense of rising or transformation, which is key to Imogen's journey. I will admit that red is my favorite color (so use it a lot!), but I chose red for the display (or title) type because it vibrates ever so slightly on the blue background, and that creates a sense of tension that prepares readers for the story within.  

Something I never realized until going through the publishing process is that art designers don't just focus on covers, but inside elements as well. Tell us a little bit about the inside design for BRUISED. How do you go about choosing fonts, spacing, chapter headings, page number placement, etc.? What factors go into your decisions?
As a book designer, it's my job to ensure that a book feels like a package deal. I view design as the glue that aesthetically holds a book together. Continuity in design can add to the storytelling process when all of a book's elements (fonts, end papers, margins, jacket effects, folios, etc.) work together to carry the theme of the book from cover to cover.

For novels, the design process almost always begins with the cover, so a book's interior should feel like an extension of the cover. With Bruised, the cover is minimal and graphic, so I wanted the interior to mirror that aesthetic. Being the typography-nerd that I am, I like to believe that the main body font sets the tone for the text, so I always begin there. I wanted a more angular, slightly modern serif that would pair well with Democratica, the display type, so I chose Spectrum (designed in 1952 by Jan van Krimpen) because it has those qualities as well as a vulnerability that seemed fitting for Imogen's character. The chapter pages are very minimal, containing just one illustrated element: the blood spatter from the cover. I reused the display type for the chapter numbers and folios because the Democratica letterforms are quirky and add visual interest.

As a reader and designer, I love generous margins, so I always try to incorporate that into my design. But with Bruised in particular, I wanted to balance the tension of the cover with a delicate lightness that would flow from page to page.

I would say you did a fabulous job, Maria. Thanks so much for answering my questions, and for creating such a terrific cover for BRUISED!